"We didn't know you were coming..."

Published on: Fri, 16/02/2018 - 13:43

The words that many new part time and Night Tube starters were greeted with as they introduced themselves on the stations they had been assigned. After being assured by their trainers that they would go to the stations, meet the AM, speak to Cover Group Support and find out who they would be shadowing. Some were even told they wouldn't be on the system properly until they knew they'd passed all their training, that sorting anything out now would be impossible.

Often it was down to CSAs rather than management to sort out what the new starters would be doing. Some wanted to familiarise the new staff straight away and pressure them into doing with a CSA. Others got five minutes on the station and got told to go back to Ashfield and come back again on Monday morning. After a couple of weeks in the classroom, maybe management need to make sure they, "take personal responsibility for your actions, without making excuses about why something isn't possible."

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Get Sick, Get Sacked?

Published on: Mon, 21/03/2016 - 14:52

Two recent cases of what might well amount to disability discrimination have shed further light on how LU treats its staff.

Two workers "failed" their probations, both due to attendance issues related to serious physical conditions. (Read more here.)

Behind empty phrases about its "duty of care" and commitment to equal opportunities, the fact is that LU treats sickness punitively. It punishes us for getting ill.

It doesn't matter whether we have doctors' notes to certify that the sickness is legitimate; it doesn't matter if the sickness is directly related by the deleterious health impacts of working extreme shifts in a dirty, industrial environment. Apart from a few selectively-interpreted exemptions, LU's attitude is that if you get sick, that's a disciplinary matter. Union reps do their best to get people reduced warnings, but many managers interpret the attendance policy as basically automatic: if you "breach" the "satisfactory standard" (missing more than one shift in any six-month period), you risk a six-month warning. Two more sick days in those next six months, it could be a one-year warning. Go sick again and your job's on the line.

Think about that policy again for a minute: if you get sick for more than four days over the course of an entire year, your job could be in jeopardy. In what sense is that fair or reasonable?

Some managers presumably think they need to threat of disciplinary action to act as a deterrent. But in fact, the policy encourages absenteeism. It only takes two sick days to "trigger" the attendance policy; if we know we're likely to be disciplined anyway, why not take more time off?

Our jobs make us sick. It's undeniable. We work in dirty environments, breathing in polluted air. Many of us spend hours on our feet. Some of us work manually, with heavy equipment, risking injury. We work shifts that mess up our sleeping and eating patterns. It's inevitable that we're going to get sick. Our employer should support us, not discipline us.

No-one should be punished for being ill. No-one should feel like they have to drag themselves to work when they're unwell, possibly making themselves worse, because they're worried about being disciplined for calling in sick.

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Fixed-term contract CSAs: fight for your future!

Published on: Mon, 18/05/2015 - 21:47

All new CSAs employed since the middle of last year have been taken on on fixed-term contracts - most for 12 months, some for 16, but some for less (nine or six).

These fixed-term posts were created unilaterally by LU without agreement from any union. They're a big setback; directly-employed work with LU has always been (relatively) stable and secure. Unions have argued for outsourced work such as cleaning and many engineering functions to be taken back in house precisely because insecurity, casualisation, and precariousness are much more common when work is contracted out.

But now we have "in-house" insecurity too. It's a little vision of what the company has in store for us in the future. If our bosses aren't pushed back, how long before relief CSAs on zero-hours contracts become a reality?

For young people in austerity Britain, even 12 months on a CSA's salary and free travel is a more appealing option than a lot of the rest of what's out there. Fixed-term contract CSAs can apply for other jobs within LU and TfL once their foot's in the door and they're through probation, so there's the tantalising possibility of something more long-term.

But the future is still profoundly uncertain. CSAs are wondering if they'll simply be let go, or if they might be offered new CSA2 posts, on £6,000 less than they're currently being paid.

Either outcome is insulting. LU has trained these workers to do a particular job at a particular rate of pay. To either ditch them once they've helped the company transition to a new staffing model, or slash their pay, is obscene. And if fixed-term CSAs are kept on as CSA2s, how long will it be before they're asked to casually "act up" and cover the work of absent CSA1s (for which they are, after all, licensed)? The company will effectively have a reserve army of CSA1s on the cheap.

So what can we do about it?

There's some understandable caution amongst some fixed-term CSAs about getting involved in unions, and participating in potential strikes, as they're worried it may affect their future. Tubeworker reminds all fixed-term CSAs that they have the same legal rights as permanent staff to join unions and participate in industrial action.

But it's not simply a legal question. It comes down to this: joining the union and getting involved in the fight against job cuts and casualisation won't guarantee you a secure job, and yes, it's not without its risks. But the alternative - doing nothing, keeping your head down, and relying on the benevolence of the company to see you through - is unthinkable. It means surrendering the only chance you have to even attempt to take control of your own destiny.

As the old saying goes - if you fight, you might not win. But if you don't fight, you'll surely lose.

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Stick to Six!

Published on: Fri, 15/08/2014 - 21:50

Across the combine, stations-side management structures seem to be backed up when it comes to signing new starters off probation.

Some are blaming ongoing "Fit for the Future" processes for creating backlogs of work. It may well be the case that DSMs and GSMs have had increased workloads as a result of "Fit for the Future", which will, after all, affect their grades too. But new CSAs shouldn't be punished by effectively having their probation informally extended, through no fault of their own.

A six-month probation period is stipulated in the contract. It should only be extended due to serious performance or disciplinary issues, which should be clearly explained. Informal extensions, because management is too busy dealing with other things, are not on.

Of course, the company could scrap "Fit for the Future", an unnecessary and regressive tranche of changes that neither staff nor passengers need, and save themselves - and us - a lot of bother!

Tubeworker topics

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'Cut Loose'

Published on: Mon, 26/11/2012 - 16:34

An LU document has revealed another sneaky way to remove staff.

It also shows what we always suspected: they plan to use the 'Competence Management System' to spy on and discipline us, even tho they say it's for improving performance.

The document says: “Probation is our opportunity to ensure staff are and remain, at least for the first few months of their employment, suitable for London Underground. In its crudest sense, it allows us to keep an eye on new staff and, if they don't come up to snuff, to cut them loose without having to go through the entire disciplinary process.”

If any new recruit is in doubt about whether LU values them as employees, document will shatter any remaining illusions. LU couldn't speak plainer. Disciplinary processes, and the rights of representation they come with, are an impediment to their real designs. They would love us to be completely dispensable according to their needs: 100% power in their hands.

It's bad enough that probationers do not have secure employment rights from day one. If they are good enough to pass the recruitment process, and training, then they are good enough for a job. From then on, it should be about training and support, not looking for ways to boot us out the door.

Our unions need to challenge this despicable way of treating us. If we find out that anyone has been dismissed under the terms of this so-called policy, then LU might find a few more workers 'cut loose' than they'd reckoned on ...only we'll walking out the door to protect our fellow workmates, not walking out of our jobs.

Tubeworker topics

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Take Action For Eva!

Published on: Fri, 14/03/2008 - 09:15

LUL has upheld the outrageous sacking of Eva Bayford on appeal. Eva's workmates are now gearing up for indutrial action to demand her reinstatement - and the rest of us should do all we can to help.

There's a long-standing labour movement maxim that 'an injury to one is an injury to all'. Individual cases are never really about just an individual; they are always about a wider principle too. In this case, that wider principle is rights for probationers. Management seem to think that they can dispose of probationers at will, safe in the knowledge that a sacked worker can not take an 'unfair dismissal' claim to an Employment Tribunal during their first year with an employer (11 years into a 'Labour' government, and workers still don't have this basic right).

Eva's RMT branch is holding a special meeting next week to decide what action to take. For details, and publicity materials, email the branch.

Tubeworker topics

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Defend Eva Bayford & Tomi David

Published on: Sun, 03/02/2008 - 13:21

Tower Hill Group management has sacked two young probationers Tomi David and Eva Bayford. Their RMT workmates on the group and the rest of the District Line are preparing for action to win their jobs back and defend probationers' rights.

  • Tomi David has been sacked for lateness. On one occasion, she was late because LUL's own service (on the Circle and H&C) was severely disrupted; on another, she had phoned in to say she would be on the first train.
  • Eva Bayford had already had her probation extended for spurious reasons. Then management sacked her for having the temerity to get the flu. Obviously, the virus should have known that she worked for LUL and left her well alone! On top this, she was punished for going home after covering a part-timer's turn even though the duty sheets only put her down for the four hours! How was she supposed to know that management expected her to hang around afterwards?!

Managers seem to think they can take away staff's livelihoods for the slightest mistake - even when you are new and haven't got used to LUL's ways of working yet. The company also takes advantage of the fact that you can not take your employer to Employment Tribunal for 'unfair dismissal' until you have worked for the company for over a year. In other words, it is legal to sack new staff unfairly - which is exactly what LUL management has done in these two cases.

The unions should be campaigning for more rights for probationers - RMT for one has policy to do so. At the heart of any such campaign is to stand up for those probationers who fall foul of management's callous treatment.

Defend Tomi and Eva!

Tubeworker topics

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Your Six Months Are Up

Published on: Thu, 22/03/2007 - 16:20

On certain groups, probationers are having their probation period extended for up to a month or even more due to incompetent managers failing to sign them off at the end of their six months.

It's bad enough that new starters have to endure their first six months with very few rights. Probationers are often threatened with the sack for taking days off sick, even though probationers are just as likely to fall sick and need sick leave as anyone else! After probationers work hard to fulfil their side of the bargain, it's not too much to ask that you fulfil yours and sign people off on time.

Tubeworker topics

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Pick On Someone Your Own Size

Published on: Fri, 09/02/2007 - 19:29

Managers have been grovelling around on the stations, talking to new starters to 'clear up the issues' surrounding the ballot. To them, 'clearing up the issues' means repeating the nonsense of the employees communications bulletin in a somewhat pathetic attempt to secure a 'no' vote! Do GSMs have so little work to do that they can afford time out to shmooz the new starters? Or maybe a key role of management is to try to contain the workers when they are impatient for their overdue pay rise and when they organise to claim it.

Probationers very often have little idea what they are 'on trial' for during their first six months. They instead have a vague fear of doing anything that might get them into trouble six months down the line. It is clear that management have been trying to exploit that fear, intimidating new workers into voting 'no'. Many don't realise that joining a union and taking part in strikes are not included in your probation assessment at all. They can't be. The union needs to send a strong message to new starters that they can participate in the strikes without fear.

Tubeworker topics

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Ripping Off Trainees

Published on: Fri, 08/12/2006 - 17:47

Trainee CSAs are working shifts on stations but only being paid 80% of the normal wages. 100% of CSA wages is hardly enough to live on in London - 80% is leaving new recruits really struggling financially.

This seems to be a case of management trying to get work done on the cheap, and exploiting the fact that newcomers often don't want to make a fuss.

Our unions should stick up for the principle that everyone should be paid the full rate for the job.

Tubeworker topics

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